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Secret Surrealist: The paintings of ‘Naked Ape’ zoologist Desmond Morris
12:24 pm


Desmond Morris
The Naked Ape

“The Blind Watchmaker” (1986).
The zoologist Desmond Morris has a secret life as a Surrealist painter. It’s a career he has quietly followed alongside his better-known day job as a scientist and author of books like The Naked Ape and The Human Zoo.

Morris has been a Surrealist artist for over seventy years. In his early twenties, he exhibited with Joan Miró. He managed to sell a couple of paintings while Miro sold none. Inspired by Dali and Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, Morris made two Surrealist films with his wife Ramona called Time Flower and Butterfly in 1950. When he failed to sell any work at his third exhibition, Morris made the sensible decision to study zoology at the University of Birmingham in 1951. He went on to earn a doctorate for his work on the reproductive behavior of the ten-spined stickleback.

But Morris never gave up on his passion for art. By day he was a zoologist, by night he quietly continued to paint. He even managed to bring his two passions together during an investigation into the “picture-making abilities” of chimpanzees. Morris exhibited a selection of the chimp’s colorful canvases at the ICA in London.

At a party in the 1960s, Morris met publisher Tom Maschler. He told him Maschler about his idea to write “a zoology of human beings and not even use the term human beings”:

Instead I’d write it as if I was an alien who had come to this planet and seen this extraordinary ape which doesn’t have any fur on its body.

It took Maschler three years to get Morris to write this book, which eventually became The Naked Ape.  Published in 1967, The Naked Ape has been translated into 23 languages and has never been out of print.  It made Morris rich and incredibly famous.

When he published his follow-up book The Human Zoo in 1969, Morris was wealthy enough to take time out and concentrate on his career as an artist.
The books that made Desmond Morris world famous.
Morris’s Surrealist canvases depict strange fleshy elongated figures which he calls “biomorphs.” He claims these biomorphs and his interest in Surrealism were inspired by three key events in his life. Firstly, the gift of a microscope that allowed him to see the strange microscopic world around us. Secondly, a medical book containing illustrations of intestines. Thirdly, an incident in his childhood when he saw war dead laid out on tables in a mortuary, their entrails unfurled, their bodies torn to pieces. Morris notes his painting “The Sentinel” harks back to this memory.
See some of Desmond Morris’s paintings and an excellent documentary on his art, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Salvador Dali’s strange and surreal illustrations for the autobiography of a Broadway legend

Unless you’re a fan of Barbra Streisand movies, then the name Billy Rose probably won’t mean much. Billy Rose was a legendary Broadway impresario and songwriter—now best known for such show tunes as “Paper Moon” and “Me and My Shadow.” If you like la Streisand then you’ll know James Caan played Billy Rose to Barbra’s star comedian Fanny Brice in the hit movie Funny Lady. Billy Rose and Fanny Brice were for a time married. They were a celebrity couple like Brangelina or Beyonce and Jay Z.

That Billy Rose isn’t so well known today just goes to show how being a celebrity don’t mean shit in the long run. We might remember his songs, maybe even read about his stage shows, but we don’t care about the man. What is remembered are those people of exceptional talents who change everything.

Salvador Dali was such a talent.

Dali was talented and prolific. So prolific that he produced posters for the Communist Party the same decade he designed the window displays for Bonwit Teller in New York. Everything was open to the Dali treatment.

However, some possibly more green-eyed individuals thought Dali was only after one thing. His fellow Surrealist André Breton gave Dali the nickname “Avida Dollars.” The name was an anagram of Salvador Dali and was intended as a damning insult. The Surrealists thought Dali was only interested in money. Avida Dollars was a phonetic rendering of the French phrase “avide à dollars” which means “eager for dollars.”

It was Billy Rose who helped the Dali stage his “Dream of Venus” exhibit at the World’s Fair in 1939. This started an unlikely friendship between Dali and the showman known as the “Basement Belasco” and the “Bantam Barnum.”

Dali was so enamored with his new Broadway buddy he gave Billy a series of paintings titled “The Seven Lively Arts.” When these were later lost in a fire at Billy’s home, Dali replaced the work with a new painting called “Rock ‘n’ Roll” in 1956. That’s how tight these two were at one point.

Of course, Dali was shrewd enough to know giving paintings to a big impresario like Billy Rose would establish his name among the celebrity and monied social circuit and bring himeven more fame and success.

In 1948, Dali supplied a series of beautiful ink illustrations for Rose’s autobiography Wine, Women & Words. Rose was like a character out of a Damon Runyon story written by Raymond Chandler. Here’s how Rose opens his autobiography:

I was born the night President McKinley was shot, and a lot of fellows around Broadway will tell you they shot the wrong man.

The coming-out party took place on a kitchen table in a tenement on the lower East Side. When my mother first saw me, she prophesied, “Some day he’ll be President.” My father looked at me and said, “He’s all right, I guess, but what we really needed was an icebox.”

Yet this mix of showbiz wiseguy and Surrealist genius actually worked.

Each chapter in the book had its own illustration—with one (“Poor Eleanor Knows Them by Heart”) having two. Each focussing on some key moment or anecdote from Rose’s career. There was also quite a lot on his relationship with his then wife Eleanor Holm—the woman he left Fanny Brice for—who had been a star of his swimming extravaganza Aquacade at the World’s Fair of 1939.
Billy Rose.
“Look, Ma, I’m Writing.”
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Surreal dolls reveal the dark fantasy worlds that live under their ‘skin’
09:41 am


Mari Shimizu

‘Forbidden Fruit,’ by doll artist Mari Shimizu.
Fantasy doll maker Mari Shimizu hails from Amakusa, Kumamoto Japan where after graduating from Tama Art University, she dedicated herself to creating and photographing her intricate ball-joint dolls. Shimizu is deeply inspired by the Surrealist movement, especially Nazi-hating Dadaist, photographer Hans Bellmer whose scandalous work often incorporated dolls. Here are a few words from Bellmer on his artistic approach that appear to directly align to Shimizu’s ethos:

The body resembles a sentence that seems to invite us to dismantle it into its component letters, so that its true meaning may be revealed ever anew through an endless stream of anagrams.

Shimizu carves openings in her dead-eyed dolls in order to provide the viewer insight into the inner-workings of her inanimate creations. Themes that run through her work include mythology, religion, death and nature in which rabbits are common themes. Rabbits are symbolic for a myriad of reasons and perhaps as it pertains to Shimizu’s work is how the rabbit is regarded as an “Earth” symbol—as it is the earthly aspect of its existence that allows the animal to retain its composure in the midst of chaos. Rabbits are also categorized as being “tricksters” in various mythological tales and folklore from around the world including Japan. Shimizu’s utilization of the dolls as unconventional artistic vehicles is about as tricky as it gets.

I’ve included a large selection of images of Shimizu’s ethereal dolls below. Some are NSFW. 

‘Music of the Summit.’

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Apocalypse from now on: Haunting paintings that depict a world during the end of days
10:40 am


Dariusz Zawadzki

‘Paradise Lost,’ a painting by Dariusz Zawadzki.
According to his bio at the Morpheus Gallery, Polish artist Dariusz Zawadzki sees himself following in the footsteps of another surrealist Polish painter, the great Zdzislaw Bekinski. Zawadzki started painting when he was just eleven and when he expressed interest in pursuing formal training in art school he was told that his eyesight wasn’t good enough for him to become skilled in his chosen medium. This opinion didn’t deter Zawadzki and the young aspiring surrealist instead taught himself how to paint, developing unique methods along the way that helped him work around any issues he had with his vision.

In an interview Zawaszki said once said that most of the images he paints come from his dreams and his desire to discover “unreal worlds.” Zawadzki is also fascinated with birds and the symbolism they represent and will often incorporate aspects of bird-like features such as beaks and the suggestion of feathers.

In addition to his incredible paintings, Zawadzki is also a skilled sculptor and uses metal materials to create three dimensional futuristic works of art. I’ve included a few of Zawadzki’s sculptures along with many of his grimly beautiful paintings below. Zawaszki’s work is also the subject of an upcoming book that presents his large catalog of artwork in chronological order, The Fantastic Art of Zawadski which is due out in 2017. Some of the images that follow are slightly NSFW.


‘Follow the Violin.’
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The Surreal world of Coco Fronsac

Famille heureuse.
In one single day we upload more images onto the Internet than the total number of pictures produced during the whole of 19th century.

In one day—more pictures than a century’s worth of imagery. That’s one heck of a lotta selfies.

Our need for visual stimulus is relentless. We no longer view or experience imagery as previous generations did. The reverence with which some paintings or even photographs were once held is no longer relevant—we view indiscriminately, we consume continuously.

The French artist Coco Fronsac buys old discarded photographs from flea markets and turns them into Surreal works of art. Coco comes from a family of artists. Her grandparents Lucien Neuquelman and Camille Lesné were respected painters. Her parents met at art school. Coco attended art college in Paris before beginning her career as a painter, sculptor and creator of Surreal artworks from found photographs.

Coco takes each photograph—draws on it, paints over it and gives it a new life. If we cannot reclaim our past then we cannot understand our present. These photographs of people long dead, long forgotten have been abandoned, orphaned, thrown to the wind, sent for landfill. We no longer have any interest in them, their subject matter or the lives they lived. By turning these images into art, Coco reconnects the viewer’s relationship with the photo’s subjects. These reinvented images encourage the viewer to take a second look—to enquire about the subject matter and its history. Her intention is to bring people of different backgrounds together and rediscover the connections between us are far greater than the differences.

See more of Coco Fronsac’s work here.
Evidences spectrales.
Holidays on Mars.
More of Coco Fronsac’s work, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Strange, Seductive and Surreal Erotica from 1920-30’s Vienna

Atelier Manassé was a highly successful photographic studio established by husband and wife team Adorján von Wlássics (1893 - 1946) and Olga Solarics (1896 - 1969) in Austria in 1924—though some sources cite 1922.

Principally based in Vienna—with a smaller office in Berlin—the studio flourished during the 1920s and 1930s. It was known for producing highly flattering portrait photography of film, theater and cabaret stars. It could be said Adorján and Olga were the airbrush pioneers of their day—artfully painting out any blemishes or wrinkles and reducing the unsightly flab from legs and waists. The resulting photographs were mass produced and sold to fans as much sought after postcards.

But Atelier Manassé did not just specialise in lucrative publicity photographs—it also produced a vast array of erotica. In particular Olga dedicated herself to producing highly original nude photography which is credited with establishing the “pin-up” long before Playboy magazine. But Olga’s work was far superior and far more influential than any cheesecake photography—it drew on many avant garde ideas and cherry-picked styles from Surrealism and Expressionism. More importantly, Olga’s photography presented liberated images of women—relishing their own sexuality, their own bodies and their power of seduction.

There is a dedicated collectors market for Atelier Manassé photographs and even magazines all being sold at auctions and online for a goodly sum.

The following are some of the more Surreal and seductive photographs that typify the best of Atelier Manassé‘s erotica.
More beautiful photographs from Atelier Manassé, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Artist gives old photographs a superhero makeover

Someone’s dead relatives just got a makeover. Artist Alex Gross takes discarded vintage photographs, paints on them and turns them into portraits of pop culture icons like Batman, Superman, Electra, Wonder Woman, Super Mario and Marge Simpson. These mixed media paintings raise questions about the relevance of history, family and memory in our neo-liberal consumerist world—where fictional characters have far more currency and longevity than familial ties or dead relatives.

Gross is best known for his beautiful, disturbing and surreal paintings that explore modern life.

The world that I live in is both spiritually profound and culturally vapid. It is extremely violent but can also be extremely beautiful. Globalization and technology are responsible for wonderfully positive changes in the world as well as terrible tragedy and homogeneity. This dichotomy fascinates me, and naturally influences much of my work.

I like Alex Gross’s paintings. I like his ideas. He is painting a narrative to our lives—and like all good art he is questioning our role within this story and the values we consider important in its telling. More of Alex Gross’ work can be seen here.
More photographs reborn after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Danger is My Beer’: Meet ultra-obscure musical cult hero Reverend Fred Lane

From the Dangerous Minds archives:

It’s difficult to describe the music, or the persona, of Reverend Fred Lane, but I will try. The above pictured album cover probably paints at least a thousand words…

Fred Lane is an ultra obscure musical weirdo cult hero along the lines of Half Japanese, Daniel Johnston, Jandek, R. Stevie Moore or Wild Man Fischer, but he’s way, way more obscure than any of these comparatively famous freaks. At least you know the general territory. Lane was/is the stage name of a Tuscaloosa, AL-based artist/sculptor named T.R. Reed who put out two albums under the Fred Lane moniker in 1983, From the One That Cut You (recorded in 1975) and Car Radio Jerome in 1986. These albums were then re-released by Kramer’s Shimmy Disc label in the late 80s.

First the music: cartoony big-band free-jazz swing skronk sometimes bordering on total cacophony with dada lyrics and elements of easy listening, 70s Zappa, spy-fi, The Residents, Spike Jones, country and No Wave thrown in for good measure.  It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever heard before and that’s not a throwaway assessment. The music of Reverend Fred Lane exists in its own very, very specific angel dust funhouse mirror continuum in the same way that a film like Eraserhead or Forbidden Zone stands out when compared to other mere movies.

In the mid-70s there was an Alfred Jarry-influenced absurdest arts group/event in Tuscaloosa called the Raudelunas Pataphysical Revue and this is where Reed’s “Reverend Fred Lane” alter ego was born, as the joking MC for Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs. No pants. A tuxedo jacket. Coke-bottle glasses, a leering grin and a waxed mustache made the sleazy Reverend’s mad look which was then topped off with Band-Aids. Although it is an act, it’s not one that’s completely obvious at first and Lane might seem to some listeners to be genuinely demented.

From the One That Cut You was literally inspired by an illiterate threatening love note/confession from someone named “Fuear” that was wrapped around a knife that was found in a secret compartment in a 1952 Dodge truck. Reed wrote both a song and also a stage show based on the note for his Fred Lane character.

The note read:

“I hope the paine is gone. This is the one that cut you? P.S. Don’t wear about Jimmy I will take kear of him the same way I took kear of YOU.”

Dig his song titles: “Upper Lip Of A Nostril Man.” “Car Radio Jerome.” “The French Toast Man.” “Danger Is My Beer.” Who could forget “I Talk To My Haircut”? I can’t imagine what this music sounded like to unsuspecting listeners in the 70s and 80s. And how in the world did people find out about it? (Apparently John Peel played Fred Lane on his BBC radio show. I heard of him because Kramer gave me his CD.)

Only two Fred Lane albums ever came out, A guy named Skizz Cyzyk has been working on a documentary about Fred Lane and the Raudelunas collective for over a decade now. He says of the Alabamy art/freak-out scene, “Had it been in NY or SF there would be textbooks written about it by now.”

Interesting point. The Fred Lane CDs are long out of print and sell for upwards of $75 for used copies on Amazon. Fred Lane seems like an obvious candidate for a deluxe collector’s edition CD reissue of some sort. In the meantime, there’s a download link on the Remote Outposts blog

“The French Toast Man”:

“From the One That Cut You”:

More from the Reverend Fred Lane after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Surrealists’ tarot deck
11:22 am


Andre Breton

In 1940 and 1941 André Breton, widely considered the founder of Surrealism, and a group of like-minded individuals (René Char, Oscar Dominguez, Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, Jacques Hérold, Wilfredo Lam, André Masson, Benjamin Péret) decided to design their own deck of tarot cards. The deck they finally came up with was executed in a remarkably pleasing, almost ligne claire style. In accordance with the mindfuckery inherent to Surrealism, the group rejected the courtly/medieval theme of the traditional deck and nominated their own heroes to represent the face cards, including Hegel, Freud, the Marquis de Sade, Baudelaire, and so on.

(A quick clarification: It seems evident that this is a deck of playing cards or possibly a hybrid of tarot and playing cards. Sources seem unequivocal in describing the deck as a tarot deck, and so that’s what we’re going with too.)

The Surrealist deck of cards suggests a kind of post-Enlightenment, left-wing, revolutionary, intellect-based cosmology. So the royal hierarchy of King, Queen, and Jack was replaced with “Genius,” “Siren,” and “Magus,” this last word accentuating the occult roots of the project. Rejecting the traditional clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds as well as the traditional tarot suits (wands, cups, swords, and discs), the group invented its own symbolism, with flames and wheels constituting the red suits and locks and stars being the black ones. Flames represented love and desire; wheels represented revolution; stars represented dreams; and locks represented knowledge.

Brilliantly, for the joker, the group selected Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (bottom).

Genius of flames: Baudelaire
Siren of flames: Marianna Alcofardo (author of Letters of a Portuguese Nun)
Magus of flames: Novalis

Genius of locks: Hegel
Siren of locks: Hélène Smith (nineteenth-century psychic)
Magus of locks: Paracelsus (Renaissance physician and occultist)

Genius of wheels: De Sade
Siren of wheels: Lamiel (from Stendhal)
Magus of wheels: Pancho Villa

Genius of stars: Lautréamont
Siren of stars: Alice (from Lewis Carroll)
Magus of stars: Freud













via Tombolare

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Rooms full of human bones: Czech master animator Jan Švankmajer’s stunning Ossuary

Described by Milos Forman as “Disney + Bunuel,” stop-motion animator Jan Švankmajer is one of the few artists to truly translate the spirit of early-20th century surrealism for the present. Folks like Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam cite Švankmajer’s late-‘80s and early-‘90s feature films like Alice and Faust as classics in the art form.

But most of all, Burton and Gilliam point to Švankmajer’s early short films from the ‘60s through the early ‘80s. One of these, the 10-minute Kostnice from 1970—known as Ossuary—isn’t stop-motion at all. Instead, it’s a beautifully stylized study of the decoratively laid-out bones of 70,000 people in the Cemetery Church in suburban Sedlec in the Czech Republic.

Shot during the dire couple of years after the Prague Spring liberation of 1968 collapsed under an invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, Svankmajer made Ossuary a grim reminder of human fallibility.

As Jan Uhde wrote in his piece on the film for KinoEye:

Film-makers, particularly those of the “Czech New Wave,” were among the most severely persecuted. The fact that a non-conformist like Švankmajer was allowed to shoot in this atmosphere at all was in part due to the fact that he was working in the relatively obscure and inexpensive domain of short film production; this may have saved him from the crackdown that struck his more exposed colleagues in the feature film studios during the 1970s.

Moreover, Švankmajer’s remarkable tenacity and creative thinking enabled him to sometimes outwit the regime’s ideological watchdogs[…] The film was commissioned as a “cultural documentary,” a form popular with the authorities and considered relatively safe politically. But the subject Švankmajer chose must have been a surprise for the apparatchiks: on the one hand, the Sedlec Ossuary was a first-rate historical site which, at first glance, suited the official didactic demand. On the other hand, there was the uncomfortable subject of decay and death as well as religion, reflecting a subtle yet defiant opposition to the loud secular optimism of the communist officialdom.


Get: Jan Švankmajer - The Ossuary and Other Tales [DVD]


Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday, Hitchcock: The Dali Dream of Spellbound

Dangerous Minds couldn’t think of a better 111th birthday salute to the Hitch than to review his far-too-short dream-sequence collaboration in Spellbound with the clown-prince of surrealism, Salvador Dali.

Rachel Campbell-Johnson wrote in detail about the team-up for the Times Online, and Joel Gunz at Alfred Hitchcock Geek went into Hitch’s affinity with surrealism.


Get: Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound [DVD]


Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Even—As You and I: Rare and Excellent Depression-Era American Film Spoofing the Surrealists!

By 1937, surrealism was in its second decade as a movement. Its artists and filmmakers were making inroads into London and New York galleries, and becoming media stars. The surrealist bug also bit on the West Coast, and underground gatherings like the Hollywood Film and Foto League screened European avant-garde films regularly.

Such gatherings attracted politically minded actor Harry Hay and Works Progress Administration (WPA) photographers Roger Barlow and LeRoy Robbins. After seeing a magazine ad for a short film contest, these jokers sprung into action, making Even—As You and I, a short depicting themselves as broke filmmakers who cobble together clichés from their fave avant-garde films into a dorky film-within-a-film spoof called The Afternoon of a Rubber Band. In a “D’oh!”-style ending, the three realize they’ve missed the contest’s midnight deadline.

A damn clever little underground film moment. Hay—the curly-haired guy in the group—would go on to become the godfather of gay activism, founding the Mattachine Society in the early’50s and the Radical Faeries in the early ‘70s.

Check out part 2 after the jump!

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment